Sensibly wrought, without lyrical affectation.

A New England poet and teacher affectingly recalls finding his voice amid a rural New Hampshire childhood deeply scarred by divorce and discipline.

McNair (Lovers of the Lost: New and Selected Poems, 2010, etc.) was born in 1941 to a young Missouri couple who migrated to find work in New Hampshire; soon after his father abandoned the young family, now with three young sons. In 1952, his mother remarried a French Canadian with horticulture aspirations. The children worked on a small West Claremont farm, observing their parents’ sense of strict discipline and scrimping and saving. After the novelty wore off, the three boys came to view their farm life as “an endless grind,” and the author especially was perceived as spacey and ill-focused, called a “hammerhead” and frequently whipped for infractions. McNair’s stepfather aimed to inculcate in the boys a sense of the meaning of work, yet the excessive punishments—e.g., being grounded for the summer for being late one evening walking a girl home—made the author only want to plot continually to run away from home. He did so after high-school graduation, making his way from one menial job to the next, all the while planning ways to progress in school. Steeped in the work of Cummings, Eliot and Dos Passos, he wanted to be a writer. Yet his big chance to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt learning poetry at the feet of John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate in the early 1960s was derailed when he fell for a divorcée with two children. For readers, who will root for the author’s young persona, his decision to hunker down and pay the bills marks a denouement that is stunning and bitter; after about 80 pages, the details of parental grief predominate. McNair went on to various degrees and teaching accomplishments, yet his memoir from then on tellingly dwells more on his family than on his own work.

Sensibly wrought, without lyrical affectation.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-88748-557-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Carnegie Mellon Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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